Birdsville to Boulia

Wednesday, Oct 06, 1999 at 00:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

It's 179km to Bedourie, but it's about a 2 1/2 hr trip on the dirt. In fact, all roads coming into our out of Birdsville are dirt and none are really suitable for conventional 2WD vehicles (although people try). The road is well used by the locals and anyone heading or coming from the north. It's quite a pretty drive, particularly in the late afternoon but by kangaroo hour it's time to stop and make camp.

We stopped in at Bedourie to see Kersten who was the relieving nurse while the new recruit was due to arrive the following day. We were headed to Winton and she would be getting a lift with Big Bill the following day to meet us there also where we would all be boarding a flight to Innisfail (Cairns). Wolfgang was exhibiting in his annual art show at Garradunga in the cane fields at the unique Garradunga Hotel - and we were in need of a good swim in the ocean after so much dust.

We arrived in Winton the following afternoon, met our pilot and were shown our room for the night. Peter Evert, we soon discovered was not only the pilot, but also the town's Pharmacist and brother of Vince who ran the legendary Winton outdoor theatre until his recent death. Peter treated us to a special Winton evening of a visit to the pub (location of the 1st Qantas board meeting), Chinese meal and then a night of nostalgia at the outdoor theatre (hand-drawn glass slides, Tom & Jerry cartoons, Abbot & Costello, The 3 Stooges and of course various renditions of Waltzing Matilda).

We were a bit concerned when Kersten and Big Bill didn't arrive during the night but at 7am the following morning they turned up. Our charter wasn't departing until 2pm so Kersten, Dave and I spend the day traversing the full length of both sides of the main street! 3 pubs, a Chinese lunch and 2 dresses later we were ready to board the plane - a 6 seater Saratoga.

An hour into the 2 1/2 hour flight David was sick (beer and Tom Yum soup we think)... and I was the nervous one! The flight was incredibly bumpy and then it clouded out as we neared Innisfail. On arrival at the airstrip we were met by Wolfgang, Kersten and our long time friend, Roland (who had no idea that David and I would also be onboard). It was a sneaky trick but a great reunion for David and Roland who had been at boarding school together.

Kersten and Big Bill who live permanently in Birdsville were quite shocked by the greenery and wetness of Innisfail. David and I found it familiar but the brightness of colour, particularly the greens were almost overwhelming and took almost the entire weekend to become accustomed to again. The Garradunga Hotel was literally set amongst cane fields with a cane train intersection out the front. Looking back now, the weekend was a great blur and we joke that it must have been a dream that we shared. We arrived on the Friday afternoon and left on Sunday morning.

It wasn't all just a frivolous splurge - it was the first time in 2 months that we could get our film developed, buy cartridges for our computer, buy clothes, and most importantly... get to a bank. We had all our Birdsville income in cheques to bank!

But just as soon as we got there, we were back in dusty Winton. Big Bill and Kersten were travelling together back to Birdsville and had to pass through Boulia where we had left our trailer. So together we found a camp not far out of Winton at the Old Cork Homestead by a great river. On the way we stopped at the incredible site of a dinosaur stampede preserved in mud. Photos do not do it justice - it's one you'll have to see for yourself to believe. There is no other archaeological preserve of this kind anywhere else in the world but amazingly in sleepy little Winton it barely rates a mention.

Our last camp with Kersten was so memorable - a final farewell after so many good times in Birdsville. We swam for a while in the cool river the following morning to relieve monstrous hangovers and a pelican circled Kersten a few times before dropping one feather besides her. After splathering her face with the silky mud of the riverbed, the feather seemed a fitting headdress.

We drove together to Boulia but here we parted. For us, Boulia was the start of our western voyage across the Plenty Highway but for Kersten and Bill it was back to Birdsville for work as usual.
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
Always working not enough travelling!
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